Why Lukewarm?

Francis Chan

I mean, not speaking of myself, of course; it’s all those people. You know, the less-spiritual “brethren:” The ones who don’t spend enough time in God’s Word. The ones who don’t help out. The ones whose lives are too hurried for much prayer. The ones who fill their minds with worldly entertainments. And the ones who follow pop-culture’s behavioral and fashion trends, rather than Godly principles.

Wait a sec! That’s me, except for the last one. No one would ever accuse me of being trendy. Those are the kinds of things that gradually cover our eyes with worldly-colored contacts, nudging our world view and priorities away from what Jesus taught, one teeny-tiny step at a time. Walk that path very long, and no one will recognized Christ’s presence within—that is, if He’s still there.

Bible Gateway sent me a link to the article, Biblical Literacy by the Numbers: Fixing the Problem, where Ed Stetzer suggests: 1) Viewing the Bible as a whole, as opposed to fracturing it into sound-bites to suit our purposes, or taking a, “spiritual fast-food,” approach to our “McBibles.” 2) Creating a reading and study plan, personally or congregationally, since becoming conversant with God’s word flows from the top down. 3) Teach the Bible, not predigested curricula that may, or may not, present Biblical principles faithfully. 4) Teach and preach from the best contemporary translations, while taking older, more established versions, into consideration.

Stetzer summarizes with, “Reading the Bible is actually part of the abundant life Christ has given us,” but I say it’s far more. Only when God’s Holy Spirit makes His Word alive within us, will we understand His life-giving principles, but each Christ-follower—that’s you and I—must commit to learning them. We cannot live the Christian life without them.

The resurrected and glorified Jesus told His disciple John to warn the Laodecian church about the consequences of their lukewarm commitment to Him (Revelation 3:14-22). If there are ages within the historical Christian church, we are now in the Laodecian age, where we take our ease, having, in our own minds, satisfied Christ’s minimum requirements for salvation. We are rich (by the world’s standards), we have become wealthy, and have need of nothing … nothing but repentance.

Faith’s Other Side

What’s bright is not always beneficial.

In today’s Our Daily Bread devotional, Mart DeHaan wrote about trusting God, and included a short poem by that famous Greek author, Anonymous.

Trust when your skies are darkening,
Trust when your light grows dim,
Trust when the shadows gather,
Trust and look up to Him.

Sometimes our faith gets turned on end when God seems to work against us, rather than for us. If in those difficult times we want to, as Apostle Paul wrote, “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus,” we have to check out the the faith-coin’s other side. If you haven’t guessed that hidden message, read Anononymous’ poem again. That’s right; it’s trust!

You’ll find trust easy to grasp when your world is progressing swimmingly, but you may find it more illusive when you feel like you’re up to your eyeballs in piranha. So, what’s the key to flipping that faith-coin? The psalmist knew the secret:

It is good for me that I have been afflicted,
That I may learn Your statutes.
(Psalm 119:71)

Find your “statutes” in the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments. I’m not talking about the Ten Commandments and other laws found in the Torah, but the godly principles that apply to us as directly as they did to God’s people Israel. That verse from Psalm 119 spells out God’s purpose in allowing affliction in your life; if you have founded it on the Rock, affliction drives you to His Word for faith-building. If faith were a building, trust would be the roof that keeps you dry and safe in the worst storms. As long as I’m pushing metaphors to the limit, 1 Corinthians 3:9-15 gives you a Bill of Materials for your house.

Oh, you may think the pounding rain, the gale-force winds, the torrential flood, and the thunder and lightening will get to you, but as faith brings trust, trust brings, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, (that) will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)

Utopia

Map of Sir Thomas More’s Utopia

Project Utopia; A Human Concept

Everyone hopes for a better place. Since 1516, when Sir Thomas More published his novel, Utopia, we’ve known what to call it. Many sociological and political movers and shakers in the six intervening centuries have tried to establish their own, “unique,” utopias, but every attempt went the way of all earthly paradises. One problem stands in the way of such ideal places: the dreaded “S” word, or the “D” word, and they aren’t the popular profanities that start with those letters. Sin, and the depravity that follows it, always intervene with even the best-laid human plans, programs and institutions, when we leave God out of the picture.

You may have noticed the bad reputation that religion is earning, even our beloved Christianity. That’s because even many religions or sects that claim to embrace Christ’s teachings and Spirit, don’t. Instead, they are the products of human pride and ambition, rather than of Christ’s Great Commission. and the love that He commands in His Word. Oh, they may have begun with the purest motives ever, but we … that’s you and I … too often let our carnality take over. A (literally) dead giveaway is when we set goals and targets for our ministries that aren’t strictly Scriptural. Those might include targeting a mean income for a church’s constituency, establishing “seeker-friendly” programs, and vetting perspective members by their appearance, style or occupation. But, of course your church doesn’t do that, does it?

A Religious Utopia (at least for those who pass the plate)

I said everyone hopes for a better place, because when we don’t have hope, despair takes over our lives. The New King James Version New Testament lists sixty-three instances of “hope,” fifty-three of which are in the epistles. God obviously considers hope an important idea. You’ll find the best known of those passages in Romans, chapter eight:

20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. 24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.

Christ-followers live in the only reliable hope of a “utopia,” and that is not a place, but a relationship with the only One who is able to deliver far more than we could ever hope for. Never stop seeking that “Utopia.”

C.S. Lewis on Aslan’s “Other Name”

aslan1Those who roundly criticize Uncle Jack for all the extra-Biblical fantasy in his, The Chronicles of Narnia, have missed his point entirely. Take, for example, the following quote from, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, when the Pevensie children were about to leave Narnia for England the last time:

“It isn’t Narnia, you know,” sobbed Lucy. “It’s you. We shan’t meet you there. And how can we live, never meeting you?”

“But you shall meet me, dear one,” said Aslan.

“Are—are you there too, Sir?” said Edmund.

“I am,” said Aslan. “But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”

It’s an allegory, folks. So what if it isn’t book, chapter, and verse from God’s Word. This excerpt from the last of his series is one of the sweetest gospel presentations I’ve seen. So lighten up, dear fundamentalist. Become Christ’s gospel in the flesh. You know what that means, don’t you? “

Matthew 22:36-40 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”

(37) Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ (38) This is the first and great commandment. (39) And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ (40) On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

That’s what loving God is all about, not opinions about doctrinal purity, or who are the “good guys” and who are the “bad guys.” So, suck it up, critics; you may not be as smart as you think.

Screwtape on Greatest Evil

Max McLean as Screwtape, Satan’s top psychiatrist

Uncle Jack indeed has a way of stating simple truths simply. I realize that seems like a, “Duh,” statement, but too often scholars over-complicate the simple. While Screwtape loves to tempt human brainiacs to flaunt their presumed intellect with lengthy dissertations on the most mundane topics, he deals with his minions quite simply indeed.

The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid “dens of crime” that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice.

“Dens of crime” in Charles Dickens’ plays typified nineteenth-century England’s basest moral strata, but depravation wasn’t confined to the gutters of London’s East End. Now, as then, “men with white collars” institutionalize all kinds of evil for profit, defining truth as any cock-and-bull story that will line their pockets with silver and perpetuate their usurped authority. Money certainly can’t buy happiness, but it is required to gain power in this sinful generation.

Screwtape’s little lesson should serve as a warning to those citizens voting in the coming—indeed, all—elections, to look beyond the political promises (spelled, l-i-e-s) to the politicians’ power-grabbing agendas. Political corruption is a non-partisan issue, with most politicians and political parties openly placating any special interest group, regardless how depraved their “interests.” Egalitarianism and free enterprise are wonderful ideals, but both require balance in pursuing them, a balance that is impossible to achieve without God’s unchanging principles providing their foundation.

C.S. Lewis on Christ Alone

Uncle Jack’s critics call him a universalist because of such statements as, “… we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him.” If that were the extent of his statement on the issue I would join his critics in trying to discredit him, but it’s not, and I won’t. To establish the full context of his statement, here is an excerpt from his, Mere Christianity:

Here is another thing that used to puzzle me. Is it not frightfully unfair that this new life should be confined to people who have heard of Christ and been able to believe in Him? But the truth is God has not told us what His arrangements about the other people are. We do know that no man can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him. But in the meantime, if you are worried about the people outside, the most unreasonable thing you can do is to remain outside yourself. Christians are Christ’s body, the organism through which He works. Every addition to that body enables Him to do more. If you want to help those outside you must add your own little cell to the body of Christ who alone can help them. Cutting off a man’s fingers would be an odd way of getting him to do more work.

The main Scriptural reason for criticizing Lewis’ statement above is Apostle Peter’s declaration recounted in Acts 3-4:12, “This One is the Stone counted worthless [despised] by you the builders, the One who has come to be into the Head of the Corner (Psa. 118:22); and there is salvation in no other One, for neither is there any other name under Heaven having been given among men by which we must be saved.” (LITV)

This brings us to the inevitable confrontation with that dreaded word: theology. Two main schools of thought exist among evangelical Christians: Calvinism, and Wesleyan-Arminianism. Please note the -ism behind each of those titles that mutates ideas into institutions. Over-simplified, Calvinists believe that God chose His children before creation, and somehow, those “elect” will hear the gospel of Christ and believe unto salvation; it’s, “sorry, Charlie,” for everyone else. The Wesleyan-Arminian (Holiness) school of thought declares that anyone who, by their own free will, hears Christ’s gospel, believes it, repents of his sin and bears the fruit of God’s Spirit, is one of God’s elect by His foreknowledge. Both views ignore or rationalize Bible passages that seem to support the opposing side.

I heartily agree with Lewis’ statement that, “God has not told us what His arrangements about (those who never heard the gospel) are.” Calvinists say they were never members of God’s elect, while Holiness people, at least on this issue, remain silent where the Bible is silent. With Lewis, I doubt that God will hold anyone responsible for their honest ignorance, but because of such passages as Acts 4:12, I can’t agree with his statement that we don’t need to know Him to be saved through Him.

Lewis aptly sums up his thoughts with, “If you want to help those outside you must add your own little cell to the body of Christ who alone can help them.” I warn the doctrinal nitpickers that there are worse things than being mistaken about points of dogma. God will not hold anyone accountable for honest error, but the unloving, the judgemental, the zealots, are subject to the same judgement as they were in Jesus’ time. Just because they now call themselves, “Christians,” makes no difference at all.

C.S. Lewis on Effort

Uncle Jack has always had a way of eliciting controversy; religious liberals accuse him of being too conservative, and religious conservatives accuse him of being too liberal. He brings out the extreme range of opinion among Christians. While I disagree with him on some theological points, I’ve found much more agreement with his Scripture applications. His statement on effort, from Words to Live By, is a case in point.

Many things—such as loving, going to sleep, or behaving unaffectedly—are done worst when we try hardest to do them.

So true, but Lewis didn’t mention the self-control required to do those things without trying.

Did I hear you say, “That’s nuts!”? Well, it’s not nuts. The only way to develop positive behaviors so you do them automatically is by developing the appropriate habits, and that takes self-control.

What motivates those positive habit formations? God’s Holy Spirit, working through frequent exposure to, study of, and meditation on his Word. That is the very first godly habit, and all the others flow from it. When God opens your eyes to the awful wonder of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for your sins, and the depth of his love for you—personally—that motivated him to submit to that torture, you will want to let him speak to you through his Word. God will show you that he is love, and as Jesus demonstrated his love by dying on the cross for you, so you will want to demonstrate your love for him by crucifying your own desires for self-gratification, and obeying him even when you don’t feel like it.

Rest

Jesus said, Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NKJV) While that is one of the first passages kids learn in Sunday school, it’s one of the last that we adults put into practice.

We normally think of those labors and burdens as related to our worldly concerns, like supporting our families or taking part in civic affairs. At least, that’s the way I’ve always thought of it. Today, however, an alternative application occurred to me that, though somewhat novel to me, is probably old hat to many of my brethren. But I’ll tell you my bright idea anyway.

I look at the stranglehold that the religious authorities held on the people of Jesus’ time. He said, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.” (Matthew 23:2-4 NKJV) To me that describes legalistic religion in all its forms, both then and now. Jesus also said concerning the religious authorities, in Matthew 15:7-9 “Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:

8 ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth,
And honor Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me.
9 And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'”

One problem with legalism is, human traditions and rules become worldly burdens to those who are trying to please God through them. So it’s all the same; whether the works and burdens are worldly, or religious, they are not of God. Our Sabbath rest is the Lord Jesus Christ, who will give us rest for our souls.

To Arms! To Arms!

Meet AK 47, the insurgents’ weapon of choice.

Conservative news sources say our government is threatening our rights, to the extent that millions of U.S. residents are “prepping” for the “SHTF” scenario. God speed, rugged individualists.

I guess Preppers are the same folks who used to be called, “survivalists,” but now many more people are arming themselves, hoarding provisions, and fortifying their homes against looters, even if some of those looters are wearing the uniform of the very government that is supposed to protect the people.

The elitist news media—that’s most broadcast news sources—paints those who might be willing to fight for our Constitution as pillaging brutes, and all the Kool-Aid-drinking lemmings accept that sort of lie without question. So “we the people” allow the powers that be to pass punitive executive orders and legislation to keep the folks in line.

As Apostle Paul said, “I speak as a fool.” The above paragraphs present the extreme right end of the conservative spectrum, but as Christ-followers, our role is not to take up arms. If we will obey Christ’s Great Commandments, which Apostle James calls, “the perfect law of liberty,” we must submit to the corrupt authorities and endure persecution with patience and love. Such spiritual guns and bullets will be far more effective than trying to kill government enforcers. I pray that God’s church will grasp our peace in Christ and never let it go, regardless how much suffering we must endure. Jesus said we must be salt of the earth, which serves as both a flavor enhancer and a preservative.

Jesus said, Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.(Matthew 5:16) Wherever persecution reigns, God’s church spreads, and when that happens here, the remnant will shine with God’s eternal glory, bringing the abundant sheaves into His eternal storehouse. Praise God for His marvelous wisdom!

As for our God-given rights, I’d like to see the Biblical basis for our constitutionally guaranteed rights. The only God-given right I know is our right, as His children, to expect Him to be true to Himself and His promises. I’m plum tickled pink with that, and don’t expect any more. When our entitlements go belly up, the church will have to start taking care of its own. If it doesn’t, it’s not God’s church.

What a shame, that the LDS religion holds the standard for charitable giving higher than God’s church cares to match? The trouble with that religion, though, is such giving is mandated as brownie-points toward edification to godhood. But that’s human nature; fallen man gives so that he may get back. Whether it’s karma, God-brownie points, altruism, grudging responsibility or tax deductions, we want to know, “What’s in it for me,” before we part with our ungodly manna. I call it ungodly because we grasp God’s provisions near to our hard hearts out of love for money and the stuff it will buy, when we should consider everything we have holy unto the Lord, out of love for Him. When I say, “we,” I mean God’s church at large.

I personally don’t believe God requires us to tithe under the New Covenant of grace. What He does require, though, is far more than a simple tithe of our income. To obey God, Christ-followers must give of our earthly resources sacrificially, according to the principles Jesus laid out during the Sermon on the Mount. For every point of law He mentioned, He upped the ante. But the standards Jesus laid out are not required for salvation; they follow salvation, as the fruit of God’s Spirit that believers will bear.

If you’re walking just a hair’s breadth inside your idea of God’s requirements for salvation, or if you’re trusting in worldly weapons and wealth for survival, you’ve got it all wrong. Obviously, you’ve neglected to don the only armament that matters eternally: the Whole Armor of God. So, TO ARMS, God-style!

Extraction!

“Just relax. This won’t hurt a bit.”

Does anyone else love to hear the dentist utter the word, “Extraction?”

Okay, I lied, but with the benign purpose of illustrating a crucial, Scriptural principle. If I’d really meant the “love the word extraction” bit, the authorities wouldn’t allow me to live in the general population. Who knows where such insanity would lead.

As Lou Costello often said, “I’m a baaad boy,” for neglecting my dental health, resulting in the need to extract my broken tooth. While that’s one kind of extraction, we also necessitate another kind of painful extraction through neglect. Extracting habitual sin from our lives is more painful than getting a tooth pulled, even if the pain isn’t physical. And we must do it to alleviate an even more persistent disease than an abscessed tooth, yet without anesthesia. That’s right, we can’t even dull the pain of sin extraction, but knowing the blessed relief that awaits that procedure makes it bearable.

Romans chapter six is a pivotal point in the New Testament. It takes God’s teaching about law versus grace, and applies it to how He expects us to live our lives.

Romans 6:12-14 NKJV Therefore (since you are, “dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord,” you must) not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. (13) And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. (14) For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

The command is as clear as any in God’s Word; letting sin “reign” in your mortal body means embracing its power to rule your life. Jesus defeated sin, and thus death, by His perfect sacrifice, a spiritual victory through His physical death, burial and resurrection. You and I, however, are still stuck with our mortal flesh until we shed it when He calls us home.

David Mathis, of desiringGod, made a helpful observation about the catchphrase, “We are in the world, but not of it.” I followed his word-search, and discovered it is not in God’s Word as stated. Brother David pointed out that God, in John 17, expresses the thought in the opposite order.

John 17:14-19 NKJV I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. (15) I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. (16) They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. (17) Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. (18) As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. (19) And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.

First, note verse fifteen, above. Jesus prayed for His Father to keep us from the evil one. That means Satan has no control over us, as long as we are in Christ. Also note that Jesus prayed for our sanctification, or separation, from the world’s seductions. As far as the “not of, but in” statement, you can see those two clauses are not only in the opposite order of the catchphrase, but there is far more to being, “in the world,” than just existing here; Jesus never intended that we should simply endure until He takes us away, but He sent us into the world on His Great Commission.

Matthew 28:18-20 NKJV And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. (19) Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (20) teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Just remember that Jesus’ Great Commission—which is actually our great commission—is just one of many commands He gave us through the New Testament writers, and all of them spring directly from God’s Great Commandment to love Him with our entire being, and to love others as ourselves. So, back to that painful, sin-extraction, which is the only way we can fulfill our Lord’s Great Commandment, and thus, His Great Commission. Bad habits are hard to break, but God gave us the power of choice. Will you use it to placate your flesh, or to obey God?